Marty Pollio named next JCPS superintendent

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The nearly eight-month interview for Marty Pollio came to an end Sunday after the Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously named him the next superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools.

Pollio, a 21-year JCPS employee who had held the interim job since former Superintendent Donna Hargens stepped down July 1, was one of two internal finalists for the job, beating JCPS Chief Operations Officer Mike Raisor for the district’s top job.

The school board met behind closed doors during its special meeting for more than four hours Sunday before making its decision, and Chairwoman Diane Porter said the panel would negotiate a contract with Pollio, who made $185,000 per year as interim superintendent, by April 1.

He will remain acting superintendent until a contract is signed, according to the district.

“I’m sure it will hit me later tonight, but right now just so much is going through my mind about what we have to do and got to get back to work,” Pollio, who most recently served as principal of Doss High School, told reporters after his appointment. “Just real honored right now.”

Both finalists interviewed with the board Sunday for about an hour each.

For Pollio, it’s a chance to lead a district he joined in 1997 as a teacher at the Academy @ Shawnee, then known as Shawnee High School, and achieve his goal of becoming a superintendent.

That opportunity came on an interim basis following Hargens’ departure.

Since then, staff morale at JCPS has increased considerably based on survey results in October. The district has also moved ahead with a number of initiatives under his interim leadership, including the “backpack of skills” that Pollio says will demonstrate student achievement in academic and life skills.

“I think it’s going to make us an innovative district where other districts are going to come want to see what we’re doing,” he said. “… Now we’re ready to put that into overdrive.”

Pollio, 46, also said a reorganization of the district’s central office could be on the horizon “to better support the work that we’re doing and our schools and students.”

But his time as interim superintendent has hit a few rough patches – a federal investigation that yielded allegations of child abuse and neglect in the district’s Head Start program, a student at Jeffersontown High School getting tased by a police officer during a scuffle at the school and a looming audit by the Kentucky Department of Education that could lead to some form of state intervention, to name a few.

There’s also uncertainty with school funding in the state budget and the emergence of a group of local business and community leaders – the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda – that has said JCPS isn’t doing enough to educate its students and prepare graduates for life after high school.

Having stability in JCPS’ top role “is extremely important” in moving the district forward, he said.

“I think it’s going to be really important on me as the audit is released and we continue to have conversations with business and community leaders that I work to bring people together to support our students in JCPS,” Pollio said.

Raisor congratulated Pollio on becoming the next JCPS superintendent, and he said he believes "everything happens for a reason and you’re where God wants you when he wants you there."

"I'm obviously disappointed that I was not selected," he told WDRB News. "However, we have a lot of work to do, and I will fully support Dr. Pollio."

While he will likely pursue other superintendent openings in the future to fulfill his personal goal of leading a school district, Raisor said his commitment to JCPS and its students won't change. He noted that he took the district's COO job "to better prepare me to be a superintendent."

Porter told WDRB News that the board considered not only Pollio’s performance as acting superintendent as it made its decision, but also his time as a principal at JCPS.

The board also considered feedback from its four superintendent forums and an online community survey, she said.

She noted that he took on a challenge at Doss, one of the district’s low-performing “priority” schools, after being principal at Jeffersontown High School from 2007 to 2015.

“A good work record is always important, but we wanted to look at all the factors as well,” Porter said.

“He had successes while he was acting and had opportunity to work with the community, with the business community, with the higher ed community and just to be out in the schools,” she said. “The feedback that we were getting, everyone was enjoying the opportunity to speak with him and to look forward to working with him if he were given the opportunity.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a SCALA member, congratulated Pollio on his selection as the next JCPS superintendent.

"I look forward to continuing our partnership efforts with the JCPS community on important initiatives like Cradle to Career, the Academies of Louisville, the Compassionate Schools Project, and Out-of-School-Time programs to ensure each student has what they need to succeed in school, work and life," Fischer said in a statement. "We look forward to working with Dr. Pollio, the JCPS team, and the Louisville community to make this happen."

Louisville Metro Council President David James also offered his congratulations, saying the council looks forward to working with JCPS to show that Louisville is a city that values learning and knowledge.

"We know Dr. Pollio and his team of educators will do well to show all of our children how they can make a difference by learning," James said in a statement.

Pollio hoped to become a superintendent in the future, and he said he attained his superintendent certification with that goal in mind.

And while he said he would likely have applied for the superintendent opening at JCPS even if he hadn’t been named the district’s interim administrator, Pollio said his time as acting superintendent and “the great learning experience” it provided helped boost his chances of landing the job.

“I would be lying if I said a year ago today that I thought I would be the next superintendent when it opened up, so I think the experience I had helped me a lot in this process,” he said. "I think I would have applied, but I think the experience has helped me get this position."


Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.